Happy birthday Bill Bernbach

DDB co-founder Bill Bernbach would have been 100 recently had he not succumbed to lung cancer thirty odd years ago.

As a former employee of DDB i was issued with the BILL BERNBACH SAID book of aphorisms and wisdom he’d uttered over the years. It’s a brilliant book. All you really need to know about advertising in one publication.

Having worked directly for a still-living legend of the 1960s New York ad scene i have learned to take the legend bit with a bit of a grain of salt. These guys were human too, trust me.

But i have to say that in Bill’s case all the acclaim was justified.

He really was a visionary.

And his vision was basically that artistry could elevate advertising to something that was human. Something that you would actually invite into your life.

He realized that advertising could be something that actually added value to the life of the attendee.

This was heresy in the age of the post-war Madison Avenue hucksters who thought in terms of USPs and militaristic shelling of product messages into consumers’ consciousness.

I never met Bill Bernbach, but i did meet two of his most talented and trusted lieutenants: Helmut Krone and Bob Levenson. They seemed like nice guys. It was at a gathering of NY ad men honoring Bob Levenson in the early ’90s.

I made sure they both signed my program, ad geek that i am.

Happy birthday Bill Bernbach. We miss you!

4 responses to “Happy birthday Bill Bernbach

  1. Vinny you may just have just got to the core of it all: Bill made advertising human.

    Not warfare, not science, not art, HUMAN.

    which also means stuff like risks, failing, caring, success…

    all really good (great!) advertising is sometimes daring, sometimes funny, sometimes etc etc but it is always very very HUMAN

  2. “You can’t sell a man who isn’t listening”

    One of my fave Bernbach lines.

    Here’s to The Godfather of making a human connection.

  3. Vinny, you nailed it. Have you read this:


    As a friend said, perhaps the most astonishing comment is this:

    “The amazing thing was, the brilliant minds behind these campaigns didn’t have a creative road map.  No creative history to build on.  No awards books to steal from. They were making it up out of their heads.  That’s the definition of “breakthrough.”  Never been done.  Never seen or heard of before.  Just true original genius.”

    And at the top, making it all happen, Bill Bernbach

  4. The thing about the old skool Ad Greats is they always sold the product in some way shape or form vs today’s creatives which overall forget that is what they were hired to do.

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